Bite-Sized Learning Vs. Microlearning: Are They One And The Same?

Bite-Sized Learning Vs. Microlearning: Are They One And The Same?
Alissa Kumarova/
Summary: Bite-sized learning and microlearning are terms you will often hear in the learning industry today. Are they one and the same? What do they really mean? And must all learning now be microlearning or bite-sized learning?

Bite-Sized Learning Vs. Microlearning: Are There Any Differences Or Not?

eLearning has been around since the 1990s when the internet started becoming popular. Over the years, schools, trainers, and businesses realized the benefits of leveraging technology for training and education, allowing flexibility and reduced costs. As technology continued to evolve at exponential rates, learners, both young and old, became overwhelmed with information overload, the focus was no longer on the transfer of knowledge but turned to how to better achieve learning objectives. The use of animations, multimedia, on-screen interactions started to become more important, and also, learning concepts such as using a modular approach.

In the past few years, there has been much more talk about bite-sized learning and microlearning. It is not exactly clear when the terms were introduced, but there are articles as far back as 2012 which use these terms. 5 years later, these are still considered 'modern concepts' and many learning providers are now offering bite-sized learning and/or microlearning.

Is Bite-Sized Learning The Same As Microlearning?

To answer that question, let us try to define what each of them means.

Bite-Sized Learning

Bite-sized learning is sometimes misconceived to simply mean 'short' modules. Just because a course takes only 5 minutes, does not necessarily make it bite-sized. What makes learning bite-sized is more about the learning objectives. As opposed to traditional courses which typically try to achieve multiple learning objectives, bite-sized learning is normally focused just on one key objective. It is also important to understand the rationale behind bite-sized learning. No pun intended, but bite-sized learning is more easily consumed and makes for better knowledge retention. It could be presented in any form – not just "eLearning". Reading an article or watching a video could be considered bite-sized learning if it aims to achieve a specific objective. While it could be argued that even a single learning objective could be very broad, for example, how to prepare effectively for a client meeting, the focus for bite-sized learning is on outcomes. This means that not everything in a topic needs to be covered, just what is essential to achieve the outcome desired.


Microlearning is a way of teaching and delivering content in small, very specific bursts. The learners are in control of what, and when, they are learning. Where bite-sized learning is focused on outcomes, microlearning is focused on the approach. Generally, microlearning refers to digital forms of learning which may include videos, articles, online modules. Microlearning formats may provide bite-sized learning content. But the terms are often used interchangeably and ultimately the underlying reasons and rationale for bite-sized learning and microlearning are very similar.

One of the main reasons why bite-sized learning and microlearning are becoming increasingly important is due to the changing ways people learn and the amount of information they have access to. Attention spans are getting shorter and learners expect more from training. Learners no longer want to just gain knowledge, they want to be engaged, entertained, and able to apply what they learn immediately. They want to see improvements and be able to quantify their progress. They want to do so anytime, anywhere, on any device. They want to be in control of their learning journeys and yet be guided in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Bite-sized learning and microlearning certainly are steps in the right direction, especially for Millennials, and for our dynamic environments in which we live, work, and play. Perhaps what is less important are their definitions. The ideas behind why bite-sized learning and microlearning can be more effective, though, and help the new generations to learn better, one day at a time.

So, where does that leave more traditional forms of learning? Must all learning be microlearning or bite-sized learning in order to capture the attention of Millenials in the digital age? Not necessarily so. Just as there will always be a place for the classroom, there is also a place for full-length courses which go into detail on various objectives. However, that is not to say that mundane eLearning courses, where learners have to click through page after page, are acceptable. Learners still demand to be engaged and want to see outcomes from their training. We also cannot ignore the importance of social learning, or learning, from others, and the importance of being able to interact directly with instructors and other classmates. All forms of learning should consider that, including microlearning and bite-sized learning.